As we approach winter and the sun sets earlier and rises later, our circadian rhythm naturally changes as well. In our modernized world, many of us are unaware and continue on the same schedule of bedtime and waking as we have all Summer, but our bodies and brains are still tuned into the changing rhythm. Obviously our modern way of life is much different from our ancestors who farmed the land and were very aware of these changes, but this subtle shift in daylight can have a major impact on our daily life and health as the seasons change. Read
by Emma Thake
Summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner. For so many people the beginning of the year feels like if falls around this time and that’s because school is almost back in session. It’s a transitory season for many, whether you’re getting your kid ready for their first day being a third grader or your going back to school yourself, or you just happen to be going with the flow of this transitory time and seeing changes yourself. Read
In traditional Chinese medicine, autumn is linked to the metal element which is characterized by the color white, the lungs, and its paired organ the large intestine. To us and to others who feel the effects of seasonal changes, autumn is also linked to the emotions of grief and nostalgia.
Autumn is the time when leaves fall to the ground, begin to decompose to create fertile ground, and leave the potential for growth for the spring.
Similarly, the human body naturally wants to pare down, introvert and begin a season of focused energy. There is a radical shift that is almost palpable on the fall equinox when the energy that previously flowed outward turns inward in preparation for the winter ahead. Even if you aren’t heading back to school, most people experience the “back to school” feeling. They will organize their homes, offices and calendars, and look to the months ahead with a “new year” sense of goals for relationships, family and self.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a form of therapy for the entire body, mind and spirit. I have this concept that the body holds onto pain and negative emotions just like the mind holds onto thoughts. Just as psychotherapy helps the mind release tension, acupuncture helps the body release toxic emotions and memories as well. The body has a way of channeling grief, angst and anger into a physical manifestation. One prime example of how the body holds onto what is toxic is constipation. Suffering from constipation has been proven to affect hormone metabolism, mood, and create a host of digestive and metabolic disorders. But with something like constipation, Chinese medicine offers help.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture, herbs and dietary therapy to help improve digestion and the process of letting go. As practitioners, we utilize acupuncture points that have a descending action and improve the circulation of Qi and blood. Similarly we address the lungs which are so frequently damaged by the dry, crisp air that characterizes autumn and winter.
Someone once described the lungs as a tree in the rainforest that needs moisture to thrive, like the image of a tree situated upside down in the chest filtering oxygen from the air and expelling CO2. The lungs are the rythym maker of the body and set the pace for the entire bodies movement. Lung Qi needs to be strengthened to ward off pathogens to keep the Rhythm Maker moving efficiently. In addition to addressing these elements, nutritional aspects to Chinese medicine offer everyday solutions to allow the flow of movement through the body.
The following is a list of foods and supplements to support the lungs and the large intestine.
Large Intestine Support (for constipation)
- Flax seeds
- Omega 3 fatty oils
- Warm water and lemon
- Dried fruits
- Chia seeds
Lung Qi is nourished by consuming:
- Water Chesnuts
- Cauliflower (looks like a tree)
- Lotus root (looks like alveoli)
To reduce phlegm:
- Mustard Greens
- Dandelion leaves
- Eliminate dairy, sugar and wheat
“Beneath the light, the river and hills are beautiful,
The spring breeze bears the fragrance of flowers and grass.
The mud has thawed, and swallows fly around.
On the warm sand, mandarin ducks are sleeping.”
-Du Fu (Classical Chinese Poet of the Tang Dynasty 712–770 AD)
Spring has sprung, as they say, and today’s equinox is officially the first day of Spring, in the northern hemisphere, and the end of winter. Chinese medicine draws its wisdom from the natural world, so the ancient Taoist doctors regarded the transition from winter to spring as an important time of renewal, not just in nature, but also in our bodies.
The element associated with the spring is the wood element, which is known for its strength and flexibility and is linked with the color green. The wood element represents growth and I’m reminded of this when I see the little green shoots appearing all over my garden. Like the new plants pushing through the earth, the energy of the wood element is strident and forceful. In human beings this energy can be frustrated when unbalanced, but when channeled properly it’s also associated with altruism and helping others. The direction of the wood element is east and so, appropriately, at the spring equinox the sun rises directly in the east. When it comes to weather the wood element is associated with the wind which reflects the movement and change of the season and the ability to burst through and overcome obstacles.
From a spiritual perspective the wood element is said to house the “hun” which is the part of the spirit that goes on after we die. For me the “hun” represents the wood element’s ability to transform life into it’s next stage and so I use this time to reflect on where I’m going and what aspects of my current life I’m choosing the leave behind. The emotion associated with the wood element is anger which can cause stagnation and a pent-up feeling, but anger expressed healthily can be the impetus for transformation and change. This purposefulness is why the the wood element has a reputation for being able to get things done and, after the hibernation of winter, it feels energetically appropriate to do more and reach further during the spring.
The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (an ancient Chinese medical text) advocated cleansing the body during the spring and here at the YinOva Center many of our staff and patients choose this season to follow a gentle and supportive cleanse together. You can read about past YinOva Cleanses here. The liver and gall bladder are the organs associated with the wood element and supporting these organs of detoxification in the spring can help them work better. Many of us suffer from sludgy, sluggish livers and the spring is a great time to gently cleanse and detoxify them.
So let’s celebrate the spring equinox together by embracing the wood element and it’s values. Here are some ideas of ways you can mark this transition.
- Let go! Leave behind any resentments or frustrations and make a plan to start anew.
- Make some noise! Anger is the emotion of the wood element and when channelled appropriately can be a force for change and transformation
- Grow! Plant some seeds to feel connected to nature’s cycles. Check out this YinOva Blog article about how to grow a vegetable garden from seed.
- Choose! Make a plan and begin it. The wood element has strong creative energy so paths chosen at this time are more likely to manifest.
- Drop a bad habit (or two)! Make some dietary changes to support your liver, the wood element’s organ. After the heavy foods of winter start to eat more leafy green vegetables and drink less coffee and alcohol.
- Cleanse! Join us at the YinOva Center as we all cleanse together. More info will be available on this soon.
- Stretch! The ligaments and tendons are said to be the tissue of the wood element and now’s the time to emerge from your winter cocoon and exercise them. Feel free to book a Pilates appointment with Sarah if you would like our support.
- Heal! An acupuncture treatment is a great way of moving stagnation both physically and emotionally, so come on in and let the YinOva Team take care of you as you start a new healing regimen, detox or work on a new plan.
- Get up! It’s time to get off the sofa and move, make changes and get out and about.
- Give! Channel the energy of spring outwards and help give someone else a fresh start. Join our team on KIva and make micro loans to people in developing countries.
- Have fun! In past seasons, we have wood-element-themed spring macarons in our center. Made for us exclusively by Bisou Ciao, our YinOva macarons are dairy and gluten-free and contain spirulina, mint and citrus all of which are used in Chinese medicine to benefit the liver. So go ahead…..have some fun and allow yourself a healthy (ish) treat.
On behalf of all of us here at the YinOva Center, we wish you a very happy, productive and healthy spring.
May you use the strength and flexibility of the wood element to create your dreams.
Wishing you a healthy and prosperous Year of the DragonJanuary 23rd marks the start of the Chinese New Year. It is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as the “Spring Festival” and it marks the end of the Winter season. Since the Chinese follow a Lunisolar calendar, the festival begins on the first day of the first Chinese lunar month. A long holiday, spanning 15 days, the celebration ends on the 15th day with the Lantern Festival.
While traditions may vary by culture, typically households will thoroughly clean their homes to sweep away negative qi in hopes of making way for good incoming luck. They gather together and celebrate the onset of the New Year with an elaborate feast. Traditional food will include such items as whole fish, pigs, ducks, chicken, dumplings and sweet delicacies. At the end of the night, the family will assemble to light firecrackers and many parents gift their children with money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. Homes and businesses are decorated with red paper cut-outs using popular themes of “good fortune,” “happiness,” “wealth,” and “longevity.”
The Year of the DragonOften the symbol of Emperors, Dragons are the most noble and desirable sign in the Chinese Zodiac. They stand for power, strength, and good luck. Those born under the influence of Dragon are considered luckiest of all. Examples of some famous Dragons include: John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Al Pacino, Marlene Dietrich, Isabella Rossellini, Sandra Bullock and Matt Dillon.
Do you know if you’re a Dragon? You are if you were born after the lunar new year in 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 or 2012. The Year of good fortune, the Dragon year is believed to be good for business and finances. And since it’s known to leave wealth & prosperity in its way, the Dragon always leads street processions during Chinese New Year. Furthermore, under the influence of the Dragon it is considered a Yang, as opposed to a Yin, year. This is also a water year in the 5 element system and Yang Water is like a flowing river rather than a stagnant lake. Things will move, ideas will flow, economies will boom (let’s hope so!), and love will blossom. It’s likely to be an exciting year indeed!
So, as they say in Cantonese:
Gung Hay Fat Choy! Have a happy and prosperous New Year!
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